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Tom Rush, the master of cool, glides into the Kent Stage Friday

May 2, 2018 GMT

Tom Rush, the master of cool, glides into the Kent Stage Friday

KENT, Ohio -- Tom Rush has been the master of cool almost since the word was coined.

Now, after playing and singing for a staggering 56 years, the consummate singer, songwriter and interpreter of songs has settled into a comfortable place. The music comes easy, and his shows are as welcome as talking with an old friend.

He performs Friday night at the Kent Stage with opening act Christine Lavin, a witty performer with funny songs mixed in with the occasional heartbreaker.

Rush garnered acclaim in the 1960s as the man whose work launched careers for James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne, Murray McLauchlan and others by recording their work before anyone ever heard of them.

Of course, as is his way, Rush minimizes his impact.

“I was lucky enough to hear their music and record it early,” he said in a telephone interview. “But they are all so good, they would have gotten there with or without me.”

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Perhaps, but to many, Rush’s version of Joni Mitchell’s “Urge for Going” and “Circle Game” are just as classic as the artist’s own versions. At a concert in Philadelphia in 1970, Rush played “These Days” and said we should watch out for the writer, Jackson Browne, because he is “going places.”

He talked about going through boxes of cassettes sent to him by music hopefuls wishing to use him as a doorway to success.

“I used to get tons of cassettes, and I did my best to listen to as many as I could,” he said. “I was looking for that one song. I actually was rescued when I had a house fire and those boxes of tapes were destroyed. I don’t have to do that anymore.”

These days, Rush is as likely to record his own songs as those by others. His newest work, “Voices,” is mostly Tom Rush material, which he would like to perform at the show Friday.

“The people come to hear ‘No Regrets,’ ‘Urge for Going’ and the other old songs, and I feel I have to give them what they want,” he said. “They paid for the show; they should hear what they like. I will also play songs from the new album, and I hope they love them as well. People come aboard my music at different decades, so I try to scratch each itch.”

He wrote 10 of the 12 songs on the album, including a last-minute addition that people will remember.

“We were done recording, I thought, when I was told we needed one more song,” he said. “I went back to the hotel and finished writing a silly song I had been fooling around with called ‘If I Never Get Back to Hackensack,’ about an unfortunate event in the city. But from that show, I learned never to play in a bar.”

Rush will be joined by Matt Makoa on keyboards Friday night, an artist Rush describes as “a monster talent.”

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“He sings like an angel, plays like one, too,” he said. “I took him to Nashville for the recording session with all these hard session guys. And here’s Matt sitting in the corner playing Chopin. The guys looked at him and said, ‘I don’t think he’s from around here.’ ”

Listen to a taste of his music on tomrush.com

PREVIEW

Tom Rush with Christine LavinWhen: 8 p.m. Friday May 4.Where: Kent Stage, 175 E. Main St., Kent.

Tickets: $30-$35, at the box office, online at https://www.boxofficeticket.center/venues/the-kent-stage-tickets or by phone at 844-753-8364.